Laminitis in the horse

Laminitis is one word no horse owner ever wants to hear, for that matter veterinarians never want to say it either. It is one of the most difficult and frustrating, following no text book in any given horse, type of condition that many have had to deal with in some form or another.

What is laminitis ?

It is a crippling painful condition that affects the horses hooves. Precisely the tissues or laminae that bond the hoof wall to the coffin bone in the hoof. It can affect any breed, sex, age and can occur at any time of year. What essentially happens is that the supporting laminae tears away from the coffin bone. This results in either the coffin bone rotating downwards or the whole coffin bone sinks.  Imagine your toe nail coming off, now imagine you only stand on that toe and you weigh 1000 pounds..

The level of pain can vary between horses, some may show very little initially and some may immediately refuse to walk this again varies from horse to horse.

Signs include a shifting limb lameness, meaning the horse shifts its weight from one limb to the other periodically. Non weight bearing on one limb, unwilling to move forward, big pulses in the feet, heat felt along the front of the hoof.

What to do if you suspect laminitis?

  1. Treat it as a emergency
  2. Do not exercise until a veterinarian has seen your horse
  3. Provide deep shavings, ice the feet and stall rest until the horse can be seen

What will be done when you call the vet?

1. A lameness evaluation will be performed. Can the horse walk? Trot? Pulses and heat in the foot will be checked.

2. Radiographs to determine extent of change in the foot(feet)

3. Pain medications will be administered and prescribed. Along with vasodilators, and a prescription for shoeing will be discussed.

4. Good communication between your vet and farrier is key during this critical moment. Together they will decide what is best for your horse. Not every shoeing protocol works for every horse.

5. Diet changes may be implemented if your horse is found to be obese or suspect metabolic syndrome. I often will not draw blood to check for cushings or insulin resistance at this time due to the fact  that this high stress period may alter the values seen on bloodwork. I will recommend once the horse is stable to evaluate for metabolic conditions.

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